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The 25 Healthiest Colleges in the U.S., 2012
Right around this time of year, high school seniors are making some tough decisions — in just a few short weeks, it'll be time to fill out those enrollment forms. Before picking out dorm décor to suit that new college’s colors, check out our list. We've found the 25 schools that create the best environment for leading a fit, healthy, and happy life. For more deets on how we ranked the schools, scroll to the bottom.
We can only assume UCLA students never go inside. The school offers an impressive outdoor rec center (in addition to a traditional indoor one) with a team-building ropes course, pools, kayaking, and picnic areas. And if all that relaxing gets too strenuous, students will appreciate the health center (ranked number one by The Princeton Review), which offers acupuncture and massage therapy. There's also nutrition programming from the health center and the comprehensive FITWELL program with fitness classes, online educational resources, mind and body workshops, and even chair massages. Photo: Stephanie Diani/UCLA Newsroom
2. Stanford University
Some of the happiest students in the country are at Stanford, according to The Princeton Review, and we can see why. Students give the food here an A+ at College Prowler, and many dining options include late night dining 'til 2 am. Meanwhile, the gym is open until 1 am, so studying will never get in the way of a sweat session. Not to be outdone, the health center is also ranked in the top 25 by The Princeton Review. There are several student athletic groups, and the three-step BeWell program with resources for assessment, planning, and executing health and fitness changes. Photo: Linda A. Cicero/Stanford News Service
3. University of North Dakota
Students aiming to eat healthy will love UND's "guiding stars" rating system, which serves as the yellow brick road to healthy dining options. And for the price of $4,000 per year, students get unlimited access to the dining halls, which support local North Dakota farmers. (For the record, the national average for the cost of dining in 2009-2010 was $4,300, which doesn't necessarily include unlimited meals.) Recreation facilities are even more highly rated on College Prowler — as well they should be. The $20 million gym, opened in 2006, was a gift from the students, who voted to add a wellness student fee to pay for it. The gym offers a huge array of free fitness and health assessments and just about all the equipment we could ever want. Our favorite thing about UND, though, is its 7 Dimensions approach to wellness, which includes often-overlooked factors like emotional, environmental, and spiritual health. Photo: Chuck Kimmerle/University of North Dakota
4. Colby College
Tabata training and CrossFit classes at the fitness center are perfect for students who want to work out outside the box (pun intended), and the fitness complex also boasts a pool, indoor track, and ice rink. The health center has convenient hours, including weekends, and an emergency response team of volunteer EMTs that serve the campus community. Colby embraces sustainable dining, harvesting some food straight from its thriving campus garden. And dining services' hard work is rewarded with an A+ score on College Prowler. Photo: Jesse Goldman '12/Colby College
5. University of Georgia
UGA gets major points for its highly-rated food, plus the school offers nutrition consultations and smart-eating courses with a dietitian. The University of Georgia was also one of the only schools we found with 24-hour dining during the week, so even after a late-night study session students don't need to resort to fast food. The school's gym offers a Biggest Loser program (with prizes!) and several other wellness programs. The health center has dental, dermatology, and vision care, plus cooking classes and wellness workshops. Photo by Dot Paul
6. Bowdoin College
With dining services that include a small army of chefs and dieticians, it's no surprise students love Bowdoin's food. The dining halls serve fresh foods straight from the school's organic garden, and Bowdoin's food is ranked tops by both College Prowler and The Princeton Review. The school also boasts a 3-year-old fitness center with a selection of free classes comparable to the selection at a much larger university. The health center offers wellness classes, too, but the stellar programming doesn't end there. There's an outing club that goes on more than 100 active outings per year and a women's center with groups for students dealing with poor body image, eating disorders, and discrimination. Bowdoin even has — get this — a craft center. Photo by Bob Handelman
7. University of Texas at Austin
Good health reigns supreme at UT-Austin. The health center is ranked number 4 by The Princeton Review, and more than 50 percent of students say it's high-quality and convenient on College Prowler. The center offers a lending library of books and DVDs, and the school also has a wellness network with a slew of events like mindfulness meditation, taekwondo, and community garden work time. Dining halls also make it easy to pick healthier choices thanks to "healthy suggestions" at every meal. Photo: Marsha Miller/The University of Texas at Austin
8. St. Olaf College
Students at College Prowler love the food at St. Olaf. And that's good news, since 90 percent of students live on campus and must have a dining plan. The dining hall is catered by Bon Appetit, which has pretty impressive standards for food selection, plus there's always one all-vegan station. Photo Courtesy of St. Olaf College
9. United States Military Academy, West Point
It comes as no surprise that physical fitness is a huge deal at this military academy. According to The Princeton Review, West Point's health care is also top-of-the-line (third in the country). Cadets have access to military medical care plus a network of local providers including dental care. But it's not all work and no play. Cadets can fulfill their competitive sports requirement with activities like skiing, martial arts, and marathon teams, among others. Photo Courtesy of The U.S. Military Academy at West Point
10. James Madison University
Students who can't stand an overcrowded Zumba session will love JMU's approach to fitness classes. Students must register online in advance to secure a spot in class, and the gym offers a huge range of class options (with video clips online for timid first-timers). The rec also offers a huge range of programs from outdoor adventures to nutrition classes. Photo Courtesy of James Madison University
11. Yale University
At Yale, each residential hall has dining services that are open continuously until 9 pm, making it easy to grab a meal on a busy day. And that meal is pretty likely to be delicious and healthy — Yale gets an A+ for food from College Prowler and is highly rated for healthy and organic foods (which may even come from the on-campus garden, lovingly tended by students). Meanwhile, Yale's health care plan gives students access to the full Yale Health network, including primary care physicians. Photo Courtesy of Yale University
12. University of Pittsburgh
Dining at Pitt is all about keeping it local. Dining Services hosts "meet the farmer" events in the dining hall, focuses on local and organic foods, and composts both pre- and post-consumer waste. They also utilize easy-to-understand nutrition icons at each meal station. There are several fitness facilities including 24-hour access fitness centers in each dorm. And administrators here take a holistic approach to health, as evidenced by the Healthy U Program. Our favorite aspect is the Stress Free Zone in the student union, which offers meditation clinics and a relaxing space to chill out. Photo Courtesy of the University of Pittsburgh
13. Lewis & Clark College
Students say the healthy, organic, and vegetarian options at Lewis & Clark are excellent, and dining services focuses on farm-to-fork and low-carbon initiatives. Required phys ed courses ensure students stay active, and with classes like hula dance, snowboarding, and scuba diving, we're ready to enroll, too. Gractivity, anyone? Photo Courtesy of Lewis and Clark College
14. Rice University
Students at Rice definitely won't go hungry. There are dining halls in every residential college that serve three meals per day, and students' meal plans are unlimited. And according to The Princeton Review, Rice University has the happiest students in the U.S.A. This may be thanks to its comprehensive wellbeing resource site or the many fitness events organized by the recreation department. Photo Courtesy of Rice University
15. UC Santa Barbara
Student health coverage at UC Santa Barbara is second to none. It includes dental, dermatology, and vision care — a trifecta that's notably absent at most schools' health centers. Nutrition facts for dining hall eats can be accessed at NetNutrition, which is iPhone-friendly. (No more waffling between the Lucky Charms and Special K!) And for those looking for a gym with a little more, how about a pottery studio? Yes, in the gym. Photo by Nell Campbell
16. Washington University in St. Louis
Healthy dining is a priority here, and the university bends over backward to make sure students are eating well. Residential colleges have full kitchens and the dining hall boasts Studio 40, a demo kitchen. No time between classes? Students can use "Webfood" to pre-order meals for pick-up from the dining halls in a pinch. Washington University also takes a unique approach to health; while visits with a doc require payment, health education opportunities are free of charge. Photo: Dan Donovan/WUSTL
17. University of Missouri
When it comes to college gyms, Mizzou's fitness facilities are world class — it did make our list of the 21 Most Innovative Gyms in the U.S., after all. From the "beach club" to the "jungle gym," all the equipment is top of the line. Students are also generally happy with the health center and dining, too (so we're assuming they actually leave the gym, though we’re not sure why…). Photo Courtesy of MizzouRec
18. Stephen F. Austin State University
Relaxation is the name of the game at Stephen F. Austin University. Students can take advantage of the stellar weather while lounging in the lazy river, or for the more active types, there's also a rock wall and sand volleyball courts. The school's dining website is also a good resource for nutrition information. Photo: Hardy Meredith/SFA Photographer
19. Tufts University
Freshmen at Tufts are required to have unlimited meals, so they're sure to experience the school's health-centric dining. Interestingly, students can actually order-in takeout and pay with their JumboCash (a student debit account) — we're still not sure if that counts as a pro or a con. A definite plus? Chiropractic treatment and massage therapy are available at the health center, which 71 percent of students say is high-quality and convenient. Photo: Emily Zilm/Tufts University
20. Virginia Tech
Healthy food is all-important at Virginia Tech. It ranks number 10 on College Prowler's list of healthiest dining options (as rated by students) and number 3 on The Princeton Review's list of best food. The fitness center offers a variety of programs including a running club and a six-week workout incentive program. Photo: Jim Stroup/Virginia Tech
21. Wheaton College
According to The Princeton Review, Wheaton has the best dorm food in the country. The fitness center also offers free classes including yoga and Pilates, which come at a premium at many schools. And for students who plan to get injured or ill, Wheaton's the place to do it. The school offers a self-care center with free over-the-counter meds, loan crutches, and heating pads. There's also shuttle service bringing students to off-campus appointments as well as on-campus massage therapy at the health center. Photo Courtesy of Wheaton College (IL)
22. Oberlin College
Oberlin's all about flexibility. Students who want to dodge Oberlin's $5,000-per-year meal plan can choose to participate in a co-op instead. Co-ops involve cooking, cleaning, and eating with a group of like-minded (like-stomached?) students. Either way, students say there are excellent vegetarian, vegan, healthy, and organic options. While health center walk-in hours are limited, there is a 24-hour nurse line. Photo Courtesy of Oberlin College
23. Scripps College
As part of the Claremont Consortium, this women's school shares many facilities with Claremont McKenna (next on our list). Students say Scripps has the best dining hall food, though. And women looking to sweat it out without any grunting men around will be grateful for women-only hours at the gym. Photo by Ian Bradshaw
24. Claremont McKenna College
Along with most of the other Claremont Consortium schools, Claremont McKenna earns an A+ for its food from College Prowler. Since 95 percent of students live on campus and campus residents must have a meal plan, the dining halls' health efforts have a huge audience. Recreation equipment is available in dorms, while there are also plenty of fun phys ed options. Photo Courtesy of Claremont McKenna
25. University of Scranton
This school wins for having the newest fitness center of any of the universities on our list — it opened in October 2011. Students on College Prowler also say good, healthy food is as inexpensive as fast food, encouraging healthy eating. Students rate the quality of food very highly. Photo Courtesy of University of Scranton
How we ranked: We went through a rigorous scoring process ranking these schools. We took nominations from our readers through social media and scoured the web for any mention of schools with exceptional food, fitness facilities, health services, health-related programming, and just plain old happy students. We then consulted student surveys from College Prowler and The Princeton Review to choose the 25 schools (from our original list of nearly 100) with the most satisfied students. From there, we scored each school individually on a 100-point scale that weighed food, fitness, health services, and programming equally. Our scale took into account everything from accessibility (i.e. price, hours, etc.) to innovativeness (turns out rock climbing walls are actually pretty common — who knew!?) and paid special attention to the quality of those services.
Is there anyone you think we missed? What does your alma mater do to encourage healthy habits?
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Aww, I think my school should have ranked! Cornell has incredible food (continually rated amongst the best), lots of hills/walking to get to class,and physical education AND a swim test are requirements for graduation.
@50by25 Nice! Mayyybeee next time....
Mine did not even come close to ranking :(
This list is so skewed. The Naval Academy and West Point are by FAR the two healthiest schools in the nation. What other school is it mandatory that the minimum physical fitness standards for EVERY SINGLE PERSON are to run a 10:30 mile and a half and be able to do 65 situps and 45 pushups.
This list is so skewed. The Naval Academy and West Point are by FAR the two healthiest schools in the nation. What other school is it mandatory that the minimum physical fitness standards for EVERY SINGLE PERSON are to run a 10:30 mile and a half and be able to do 65 situps and 45 pushups. What does this mean??? It means that there are NO FAT PEOPLE at either of these schools, making them the winners.
What are the 25 unhealthiest colleges in the U.S.? I see a follow-up story and a call to action.
It's not called Virginia Tech University! It's just Virginia Tech. If you want to use our full name, it is Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
Hamilton College! We have a ridiculously athletic campus, pretty good dining hall food, a beautiful fitness facility, a pool, ice rink, nature trails (aka "The Glen") on campus for people to walk and run, free fitness classes, a professional masseuse that comes to campus each week, meditation and yoga club, and a phenomenal Outing Club for activities such as hiking, kayaking, canoeing, ice climbing, etc.
@lauhowe Nice! Why was no one telling me about all this awesome food when I was heading off to college? We'll keep Hamilton in mind for next time.
My school should have ranked, Keene State College in Keene NH. Great gym with swimming pool, weights of all kinds (free weights, bodyweight exercise equipment, controlled weight machines), aerobic machines of all kinds (climber, rowing machines, handcycles, non-impact running simulators, stair steppers, ellipticals, treatmills, bikes), track, basketball courts, and exercise classes; very healthy dining hall food with lots and lots of different options (ethnic, vegan, lots of vegetables and low fat options), great outdoor recreation opportunities nearby, beginner-level dance program. Everything is completely accessible to all disabilities. It's easy to be very activew, even if your body is limited in what kinds of motions you can do.
@elke That's great, elke, thanks for letting us know! We'll add 'em to the nominees for next year.
How did Columbia University not make the list?
Majority of students have a BMI in a healthy range
Award winning health services & programming
Most sexually healthy campus two years running (only school to ever be #1 twice)
Major healthy food choices (www.dining.columbia.edu and www.health.columbia.edu/nutrition)
Fitness facilities are robust (including fitness rooms in residence halls)
and I could go on and on...
Just wanted to say that the food in Oberlin dining halls has a large quantity of options rather than a large quality. Also, the student health services are pretty bad. Thank god there's the hospital in town.
@AlexanderCheney Bummer! I definitely recommend heading over to College Prowler and filling out their survey, since that's what we use to gauge student opinions. Thanks for checking out the list!
UMass Amherst. They have several gyms, including some inside of residence halls. Fabulous variety of foods and options, including daily vegan, vegetarian, and gluten free options. They are also a sustainable dining services campus, growing some of the food served on campus (some of the gardens are farmed by students too). Their food service recycling and waste program is top notch too - very little food waste, most is composted or recycled.
@BakesandBooks Nice! Thanks for sharing — we'll keep it in mind.
Becasue you matter, and your health is so important to you, this will be a revelation.
You should probably take a look at Grand Valley State University in Allendale/Grand Rapids, MI. We have Meatless Mondays, a full buffet-style cafeteria with a huge salad bar, and various vegetarian/vegan options, along with about 6 other food places on campus. Our rec center is incredible, offering many classes, a raised track, climbing center, dance center, etc. And we have free personal trainers for any student, who will work with you to create a diet and exercise plan, and meet up with you many times throughout the year to track your progress and adapt your plan as needed.
@RebekahABurney Wow, this is awesome. Love Meatless Mondays! We'll keep it in mind for next time :)
Northland College (northland.edu) should be your number one it's just that nobody's heard of it. probably the most environmentally sustainable school out there and they have a dimensions program where you must take wellness courses that fulfill 8 dimensions of wellness, just saying. plus vegan and vegetarian options daily with food being sourced from local farmers. just saying
Northland College (northland.edu) should be your number one it's just that nobody's heard of it. probably the most environmentally sustainable school out there and they have a dimensions program where you must take wellness courses that fulfill 8 dimensions of wellness. plus vegan and vegetarian options daily with food being sourced from local farmers. it's such a happy place!
also outdoor orientation trips (anywhere from 5-21 days) start off the college experience.
Am curious if the Naval Academy, Air Force Academy, VMI and The Citadel were on your initial list of 100, and if so, how they missed the cut?
@GeorgiaBulldogs Basically, the cut-off between the initial 100 and the 25 that ranked was that these schools were all extremely exceptional in at least one category, as evidenced by student surveys (from College Prowler and Princeton Review). Student feedback was really the best way to distinguish between schools that simply offered healthy options and schools where students truly embraced them/the school's programming succeeded. While all of those schools are clearly very healthy (and several were on our original list), the student surveys didn't show that they truly stood out and that students loved the healthy offerings.
UC Santa Barbara Recreational Sports sponsors a Student Medical Emergency Relief Fund or SMERF that allocates over $60K per year to students in need. SMERF was created via the passage of a Student Fee Referendum asking each student to contribute 89 cents per student per quarter with a voter approval of 89%.
You missed The Ohio State University. The dean of the College of Nursing was given the pioneering role of Associate Vice President for Health Promotion and University Chief Wellness Officer to create the healthiest university in the world.
At The Ohio State University, the Wexner Medical Center and the College of Nursing (@osunursing), we are committed to tackling the rise in chronic illnesses, mental health disorders, and overweight/obesity and finding innovative solutions for the ultimate goal of transforming the health and lives of culturally diverse individuals, groups and communities across the nation and globe.
We are actively engaged in national healthcare campaigns, such as becoming the first university partner of the Million Hearts™ campaign to help prevent one million heart attacks and strokes in the next five years (millionhearts.osu.edu). We are working with partners to develop Buckeye Wellness Toolkits that can be easily distributed to the larger community. We are hosting the inaugural US Healthiest HealthLead™ Forum to recognize employers who have earned US Healthiest HealthLead accreditation status, including The Ohio State University, http://ushealthiest.osu.edu/. We invite those universities who were selected to join us on June 12, and are planning a university-focused forum in 2013.
It is very unfortunate that this article and the website does not take into account the rate of binge drinking across these campuses. At the University of North Dakota, there is one of the highest binge drinking rates in the United States, yet it is listed 3rd on this review. Yes, we have a wellness center, yes this is a tobacco free campus, and yes this campus knows how to put away the liquor very heavily.
Before these reviews are fully understood, there needs to be more research into what each campus is actually like. The review lists CollegeProwler as a site of reference...well here you go...
So, think for yourselves people, do your own research, and talk to the locals that know what is really going on...
@drunkashellingrandforks Hey there! You're definitely right, individuals' health is definitely affected by binge drinking and it's something freshmen should consider before heading off to college. That said, it's nearly impossible to accurately compare drinking rates at EVERY university -- after all, ratings like CP's are subjective and one school's idea of binge drinking may not be the same as another's.
This list really focused on identifying the university's with the most opportunities to lead a healthy lifestyle, specifically focusing on the factors directly within administrators' control. (Yes, it could be said binge drinking is within their control, but a super-strict administration probably wouldn't foster student involvement so it's a tough situation.)
Thanks so much for your constructive critique! We love having these frank discussions about what "healthy" really means.
@kellyannefitz Kelly, thank you very much for your well constructed response, and the clarification of the focus of the list. I am at the University of North Dakota, and at UND we all appreciate the level of heath and well-being that is encouraged by the university system in North Dakota. Thanks again!
What about having a"healthiest school" competent and schools that wanted to participate would have to get x number of student to get a physical evaluation done then take the averages compared to different schools